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Thursday, May 27, 2010 08:30 pm

Plan a summer getaway to the Gateway City

Here are festivals and attractions to get you headed toward the river


A polar bear in for a swim at St. Louis Zoo shades its eyes.

It’s known for its 630-foot arch that greets you upon entrance to its city, a site to behold. The “Gateway City” has much to offer. From festivals and fairs to amusement parks, concerts and museums, a trip to St. Louis is sure to keep you and your family busy during those dog days of summer.

Fairs and festivals

African music, dance, food and vendors fill the Forest Park Pavilion for the city’s 19th annual African Arts Festival. Held May 29 through 31, the event features African and Afrocentric artifacts, jewelry and clothing, as well as African and musical dance groups. Culinary, basket weaving, hair braiding, and head and body wrap demonstrations also take place. The Children’s Village offers hands-on arts and crafts, storytelling, puppetry and percussion workshops. Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free admission. 314-935-9676. www.stlafricanartsfest.org

Enjoy a variety of music under the sun at the 17th annual Whitaker Music Festival’s open air concerts, held each Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Missouri Botanical Gardens’ Amphitheater. The concerts – June 2 through August 4 – feature local artists singing music from a variety of genres, including jazz, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, orchestra, pop and English/Spanish pop rock. Food vendors are also on hand. Free admission after 5 p.m. 800-642-8842. www.mobot.org

Latino bands, folk dancers and food and drinks from Latin and South American countries provide the perfect celebration for the city’s two Hispanic festivities. The annual Hispanic Fiesta! takes place June 26 and 27 at Knights of Columbus Park. The Greater St. Louis Hispanic Festival is held at Soldiers Memorial Park Sept. 10 through 12. In addition to musical entertainment and food vendors, each event also includes a children’s pavilion and a variety of other activities related to Latino culture. Both events are free. 314-837-6100 for more information.

The city’s diversity celebrations continue Aug. 28 and 29 with its annual Festival of Nations. The World Music Stage features traditional dance and music from an array of cultures. More than 30 food vendors sell tasty ethnic foods, while several dozen booths sell jewelry, clothing and other goods. Cultural exhibits, demonstrations and a children’s area are also on hand. The event takes place at Tower Grove Park. Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free. 314-773-9090

Blues lovers from the Midwest and beyond converge on St. Louis’ historic Laclede’s Landing for its Big Muddy Blues Festival, where local, regional, and national artists serve up tunes that’ll make you laugh, cry and beg for more. The annual two-day live outdoor event is known to showcase some of the best blues of the Midwest. For those who love a variety of music, the festival also includes rhythm and blues, soul and gospel music. This year’s festival takes place Sept. 4 and 5 from noon to 11:30 p.m. Free. 314-241-5875.

Children climb through a wire tube at the City Museum, an imaginative interactive experience and gallery west of downtown St. Louis.

City attractions

With more than 22,000 animals representing 810 species from around the world, it’s easy to see why more than 3 million people visited the St. Louis Zoo in 2009 alone. Not only is it one of the largest zoos in the country, it has many rare and endangered species. Most of the animals roam around structures that resemble their natural habitats. Visitors receive close views of many of the animals. And the zoo, located in Forest Park, offers sea lion shows, children’s petting zoo, 3-D movies, and carousel and train rides, as well as public feedings of bears, sea lions, penguins and kangaroos. Free admission. Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 800-966-8877. www.stlzoo.org

Next stop is the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the oldest botanical garden in the country. This national historic landmark is a beautiful display of modern and traditional gardens. More than 1,400 species of plants in both natural and tropical settings are housed in the garden’s Climatron. Its 14-acre Japanese Garden, complimented with waterfalls, streams, water-filled basins and stone lanterns, is the largest Japanese strolling garden in the Western hemisphere. More than 60 species of butterflies fill the 8,000-square-foot glass Butterfly House. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Adults $6. Seniors $4.50 . Children ages three to twelve $4. 314-577-5100. www.mobot.org

The St. Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue, is another city treasure. With more than 70 hands-on exhibits, the Science Center offers visitors the opportunity to test their knowledge of fossils, dinosaurs and outer space. The planetarium houses Mr. Hubbies’ Universe exhibit, featuring a 40-minute dark sky show, space mission and tour of the Boeing Space Station. The Darwin exhibit explores the life and times of Charles Darwin, while the Omnimax Theater’s Ultimate Wave Tahiti tells the story of ocean waves and the lives the waves transform. The 11,000-square-foot Science Park features exhibits experimenting with the properties of sound, motion and light. Free. Hours are Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 314-289-4400. www.slcs.org

Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
A 76-foot long, 21,500 pound No. 2 pencil is just one of the wonders of the St. Louis City Museum. Located at 701 North 15th St., the museum can best be described as an “eclectic mix of a children’s playground and funhouse.” Random objects – old chimneys, salvaged bridges, construction cranes and abandoned airplanes – make up much of the museum’s structure and displays, including the Monstrocity area which features monkey bars created with material from two Sabor 40 aircrafts, fire engines, and wrought iron slinkys. The Shoelace Factory, with its vintage machines, a 13,500-square-foot World Aquarium which houses more than 10,000 creatures, and Art City, where visitors create artwork and view various art demonstrations, are just a few City Museum wonders. $12 admission, with additional $6 to visit the aquarium. Hours are Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 314-231-CITY.

Most of us know that Ulysses S. Grant was leader of the Union Army and President of the United States, but few may know that he once lived, worked and built a cabin in St. Louis. Each year, thousands travel to Grant’s Farm – 10501 Gravois Road – to see the four-room, two-story cabin and to experience life as it was during the 1800s. In addition to the cabin, Grant’s Farm houses approximately 1,000 animals representing more than 100 species from six continents. European antelopes, African zebras and deer from North America and Asia roam the Deer Park, while 25 mares, geldings and stallions reside at the Clydesdale Stables. Guests meet Bud and Mickey – two African elephants – and get an up close and personal look at the kangaroos, tortoises and colorful birds. Free. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 314-843-1700. www.grantsfarm.com.

Contact Jolonda Young at ladyj2066@aol.com

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